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Subject:Re: Common Errors in English From:"Mark Baker" <listsub -at- analecta -dot- com> To:"TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com> Date:Sat, 28 Feb 2004 10:48:24 -0500
Michael West wrote:
> "Years" and "weeks" can be treated as possessives
> or as adjectival nouns, but if you're writing a resume,
> be aware that many, if not most, educated readers
> will consider "Nine years experience" to be a minor
> grammatical blunder. Maybe you can justify it on
> theoretical grounds, but you may never get the chance.
That will depend on how you define "educated reader". Certainly your average
university graduate is not going to know the difference. The idea of the
"educated reader" really came about as a deliberate piece of elitism. Once
Latin gave way to English as the language of science and philosophy, and
French gave way to English as the language of society, it was necessary to
create a barrier between the English of the common man and the English of
the elite. The language of the "educated reader" is to no small extent a
deliberate and artificial creation of an elite class that wished to
distinguish itself from the great unwashed.
English has been largely democratized now, and most of the population
struggles along with half remembered and misapplied rules from the era of
the "educated reader". As a result, the ordinary educated reader, in today's
sense of the word "educated", may have a variety of opinions on subjects of
In this particular case I think you will find that some educated readers
will consider it a blunder if the apostrophe is missing, other will consider
it a blunder (a variety of the grocer's apostrophe) if it is there, and
others (perhaps most) will not even notice the difference. My quick Google
survey indicates that the common usage is no apostrophe, though that does
not mean that those who do not use it themselves would notice it or consider
it an error in others.
The state of English today is not such that one can always be sure of being
thought correct by all parties on all occasions.